News you may have missed #544

Google

Google

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russia a ‘leading suspect’ in cyberespionage attack on US. I wrote on Monday about the cyberespionage operation that targeted a leading US defense contractor last March, and resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of classified documents. US Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, who disclosed the operation, said only that it was conducted by “a foreign intelligence service”. According to the last sentence of this NBC report, US officials see Russian intelligence as “one of the leading suspects” in the attack. ►►Al-Qaeda acquires Pakistani spy service manuals. Jamestown Foundation researcher Abdul Hameed Bakier reports that al-Qaeda operatives have managed to get access to espionage training manuals used by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). Copies of the documents have apparently been posted on Internet forums that are sympathetic to al-Qaeda, and bear the mark of the As-Sahab Foundation, al-Qaeda’s media wing. ►►Google-NSA collaboration documents to remain secret —for now. Even before Google shut down its operations in China, following a massive cyberattack against its servers in early 2010, the company has maintained close contact with American intelligence agencies. But after the 2010 cyberattack, some believe that Google’s relationship with the US intelligence community has become too cozy. In February of 2010, the ACLU said it was concerned about Google’s contacts with the US National Security Agency (NSA). Other groups, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking access to the inner workings of Google’s relationship with NSA. Read more of this post

CIA hid terrorism prisoners from US Supreme Court

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Central Intelligence Agency purposefully concealed at least four terrorism detainees from the US legal system, including the Supreme Court, according to an exclusive report by the Associated Press. The news agency has revealed that the CIA secretly transported the four to Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp on Cuba in 2003, two years before it publicly admitted their capture. It then secretly transferred them again to other sites in its black site prison network in various countries around the world, just three months before their prolonged stay at Guantánamo would entitle them to legal representation. While at Guantánamo, the four prisoners, Abd al-Nashiri, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah, were kept at a facility known as ‘Strawberry Fields’, which is detached from the main prison site at the bay. By hiding the four, the Bush Administration managed to keep them under CIA custody while denying them legal representation for two years longer than allowed by US law. It also concealed their detention from national and international human rights monitoring bodies and from the US justice system, including the Supreme Court. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #388

  • Political policing rising in US, ACLU report warns. A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union chronicles government spying and what it describes as the detention of groups and individuals “for doing little more than peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights”.
  • Mistrust still marks ISI-CIA ties, say US officials. John Tierney, chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee, told a Pakistani delegation that there is mistrust between the CIA and ISI, according to a report by the Pakistan Senate’s Standing Committee on Defence. Regular intelNews readers should not be surprised.
  • Britain releases secret document at heart of UKUSA agreement. Authorities in the UK have released a six-page document dating from 1946, which describes the “British-US Communication Intelligence Agreement”, known as BRUSA, later UKUSA. The deal has tied the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand into a worldwide network of electronic listening posts.

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News you may have missed #0286 (Internet edition)

  • Email trojan targeted at US .gov, .mil accounts. A Trojan-containing email, which is spoofed so that it appears to have been sent by the US National Intelligence Council, appears to have been directed solely at US government and military email accounts.
  • Analysis: Smuggling secret information through VOIP. Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) systems use a series of protocols to essentially create an open, unmediated link between two computers. VOIP applications also provide a way to make sure the packets are ordered quickly and correctly. And that’s a goldmine for anyone trying to send hidden messages.
  • ACLU concerned about Google-NSA partnership. Google corporation has turned to the US National Security Agency for assistance in warding off cyberattacks. But the American Civil Liberties Union is among several organizations that view the partnership as “troubling”.

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Released cable reveals CIA decision to destroy torture tapes

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The US Justice Department’s investigation into the destruction of videotapes by the CIA, which reportedly showed acts of torture committed during interrogations of terrorism detainees, began in 2007, but has stalled. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is spearheading what appears to be the only organized attempt to discover when and why those tapes were destroyed. Last year the ACLU uncovered that the CIA destroyed the videotapes in question after –not before, as the Agency had originally claimed– a spring 2004 report by the Agency’s inspector general, which described the interrogation methods employed on CIA prisoners as “constitut[ing] cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment”. Thanks to the ACLU, we have also known for quite some time that the decision to destroy the incriminating tapes was taken sometime in November of 2005. But now, with the release of a new batch of documents in response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, we have the exact date that decision was taken: Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0254 (activism edition)

  • US activists file lawsuit over domestic spying. Anti-war activists in Washington State are suing military analyst John Towery and police officials for allegedly infiltrating and spying on two antiwar groups in Olympia. The suit also names the City of Olympia and a US Coast Guard employee.
  • Antiwar activist to stage sit-in at CIA HQ. American political activist Cindy Sheehan says she intends to stage a sit-in in front of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on January 16, to protest the Agency’s unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan. Sheehan, whose son was killed in the Iraq War in 2004, attracted international attention for her extended protest at a makeshift camp outside President George Bush’s Texas ranch.
  • Is there legal basis for CIA drone strikes in Pakistan? We at intelNews have asked this question before. Now the American Civil Liberties Union is asking it also, and has requested to see the US government’s estimates of civilian casualties caused by the strikes.

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FBI in hot seat over controversial use of informants

Craig Monteilh

Craig Monteilh

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, America’s primary domestic counterintelligence agency, is facing a storm of criticism over allegedly using informants to spy on Muslim and ultra right-wing groups. The most controversial of the two cases is arguably that of New Jersey talk radio host and blogger Harold “Hal” Turner, who has been described as a vocal supporter of white supremacist groups. Turner was charged last June for arguing on his blog that three Chicago federal appeals court judges “deserve to be killed”, and for posting photographs of the judges along with their work addresses and an area map of the Chicago federal courthouse. If convicted, Turner faces a $250,000 restitution fine and up to 10 years in prison. What is interesting, however, is that Turner told a judge that he was a paid FBI informant, code-named “Valhalla”, and was trained by the Bureau to infiltrate and monitor white supremacist groups. The FBI denied any connection to Turner, but The Bergen Record newspaper in New Jersey gained access to court records and verified the truth in Turner’s claims. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0199

  • Author insists Sir Hollis was Soviet agent. Last month, Professor Christopher Andrew, author of the recently published In Defense of the Realm, an authorized history of MI5, dismissed allegations that Sir Roger Hollis, former head of MI5, had been a KGB agent. But intelligence author Chapman Pincher insists that “Hollis ha[d] been so deeply suspected of being a Soviet spy […] that he had been recalled from retirement for interrogation” in London.
  • ACLU supports lawsuit against FBI by alleged informant. The American Civil Liberties Union has joined Craig Monteilh, who says he was an undercover FBI informant, in a lawsuit demanding sealed court records identifying him as a spy be made public.

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News you may have missed #0147

  • Major purge in Gambian intelligence services. The Gambian government gave no official reasons for the dismissal of 27 officers from the country’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA). But local media said the dismissals were aimed to end bitter internal turf wars that have affected NIA’s performance.
  • US Congress bars release of more torture photos. US House and Senate members have approved legislation that would permit the Pentagon to withhold photographs if it determines that their disclosure “would endanger citizens of the US, members of the US Armed Forces, or employees of the US government deployed outside the US”. The ACLU said that “the suppression of these photos will ultimately be far more damaging to our national security than their disclosure would be”.
  • Russia jails alleged Georgian spy. A Russian military court has jailed Russian Army sergeant Jemal Nakaidze for nine years, for passing secrets to Georgia during a war between the two countries last year. See here for more on the recent tug-of-war between Russia and Georgia.

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News you may have missed #0129

  • Romanian communist spy boss dead at 80. General Nicolae Plesita, who directed Romania’s Securitate during the country’s communist period, has died. While heading the Securitate’s foreign intelligence service, from 1980 to 1984, Plesita hired the Venezuelan-born operative Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, to assassinate Romanian dissidents in France and bomb the US-owned Radio Free Europe offices in Munich, in 1981. In 1998, Plesita revealed that he had orders from the Romanian government to find temporary shelter for Carlos in Romania after the RFE bombing.
  • Settlement reached in DEA-CIA spying dispute. A tentative settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought 15 years ago by a former US Drug Enforcement Administration agent who accused a CIA operative of illegally bugging his home. In a court filing, lawyers for the government and the DEA agent said they “had reached an agreement in principle to settle the underlying litigation”. See here for previous intelNews coverage of this case.
  • Federal judge denies request for CIA secret documents. Hundreds of documents detailing the CIA’s defunct overseas secret detention program of suspected terrorists, including extreme interrogation methods have remained secret after U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein on Wednesday refused to release them “in order to protect intelligence methods and sources”. The ACLU argues that the CIA secret program was illegal under international and US law, that it involved the torture and deaths of some inmates, and therefore should not be shielded from public view.

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News you may have missed #0091

  • McCain denies private agreement with CIA torture tactic. A recently released memo suggests that Republican US Senator John McCain, famous for his stance against torture, privately agreed with a CIA six-day sleep-deprivation technique.
  • CIA rejects further declassifications on torture-related material. The CIA said on Monday that it would release no more documents related to the Bush administration’s torture and detention policies, because disclosing the information “will threaten national security”. The ACLU called this an affront to the Obama Administration’s policies.
  • Taliban kill Afghan intelligence chief. Abdullah Laghmani, who headed the National Directorate for Security (NDS) was among at least 23 people, including a number of senior officials, killed in the suicide attack. This was one of the few times that the Taliban specifically targeted intelligence officials.

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News you may have missed #0085

  • How the ACLU got the CIA agents’ photos. As intelNews reported earlier this week, the ACLU has been trying to identify CIA agents who participated in torture of detainees, by taking surreptitious pictures outside the operatives’ homes. It is worth noting that uncovering the identities of CIA officers is legal, so long as it is based on publicly available records.
  • Russian espionage case is bigger than initially thought, say Czech officials. Intelligence authorities in the Czech Republic say the two Russian agents who were recently expelled from the country last week were not primarily interested in the US missile defense shield.
  • US spy community builds Wikipedia-style database. Intellipedia, the intelligence community’s version of Wikipedia has grown markedly since its formal launch in 2006. It now averages more than 15,000 edits per day and is home to 900,000 pages and 100,000 user accounts.

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News you may have missed #0084

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FBI investigates attorneys for trying to identify CIA torturers

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The Washington Post and The New York Times are reporting three military attorneys at Guantánamo Bay have been questioned by the FBI for allegedly showing pictures of CIA operatives to prisoners accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks. In some cases, the pictures were taken surreptitiously outside the operatives’ homes. The lawyers were apparently trying to identify agents who may have been involved in torturing prisoners at US jails overseas. But US military officials say the lawyers could have broken laws shielding the identity of classified intelligence. The FBI investigation is reportedly headed by John Dion, head of the US Justice Department’s counterespionage section. Dion has worked on several high-profile national security cases, including the prosecution of Aldrich H. Ames, the CIA double agent who spied for the USSR. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0017

  • Spain’s chief spy resigns in financial scandal. Alberto Saiz, who headed Spain’s National Intelligence Center, was accused by the daily newspaper El Mundo of using public money for diving and hunting trips in Mexico, Senegal, Mali and Morocco. He denied the accusations, but on July 2, he resigned “to prevent further damage to the reputation of the intelligence agency and the government”. 
  • FBI declassifies reports on agents’ interviews with Saddam. Just-declassified FBI reports reveal that FBI special agents carried out 20 formal interviews and at least 5 “casual conversations” with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after his capture by US troops in December 2003. Interestingly, the declassified reports include nothing about “Iraq’s complicated relationship with the US”, especially the alleged role of the CIA in facilitating the Ba’ath party’s rise to power in the 1960s. 
  • Release of CIA report on detention, interrogation, delayed (again). Like many others, we at intelNews were eagerly expecting this previously classified CIA report on detention and interrogation under the Bush administration to be released last Wednesday. It was initially going to be released in mid-June, but was then delayed until July 1. Now the CIA says it won’t be able to release the report until the end of August. The ACLU says it will wait for as long as it has to.